Feted French director Laurent Cantet, director of the Palme d’Or-winning and Academy Award-nominated 2008 feature The Class, returns once more to the subject of teacher/student relationships in The Workshop, this time bringing the inscrutability of the creative process in tow while exploring the dynamics of a summer writing program in the south of France. In particular, the narrative zeroes in on Antoine, a highly motivated but conflicted student who seems to be approaching the class as a way to externalize demons from his dire home life. His antisocial story ideas quickly put him at odds with the rest of the students, as well as Olivia, the famous novelist who has been tasked with mentoring the students as they collaborate on crafting a crime thriller.

As a starting point of commonality, Olivia insists that the story recall the coastal town of La Ciotat’s industrial past as a working waterfront, a history that the tightly-wound Antoine feels indifferent to. After a disagreement, Olivia becomes both alarmed and captivated by Antoine’s rage. Though he seems beyond help, she holds idealistic notions that the workshop can be the social work and artistic outlet Antoine has been seeking, and is drawn further into his increasingly dangerous world with every page they write. Cantet’s alluring film premiered in the Un Certain Regard lineup at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival last spring, under its original French language title L’atelier.

–Christopher Holmes